ITD: Dover Bridge old but still safe


The Idaho Transportation Board says the Dover Bridge is safe – but says the aging bridge still needs replacing.

The board heard a report this week on the span on U.S. Highway 2 in North Idaho that the May issue of Popular Mechanics magazine rated as one of the “10 pieces of U.S. infrastructure we must fix now,” a list that also included the Brooklyn Bridge, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and the Sacramento River levies. North Idaho lawmakers long have pushed for replacement of the Dover Bridge, but with a price tag of $25 million, it’s not in the state’s current five-year plan.

The national magazine noted that a big chunk of the 71-year-old bridge last year fell onto the railroad tracks below, leaving a gaping hole. However, the state replaced more than half of the bridge deck last August, a $500,000 project.

“That will extend the life for a few years,” said ITD Board Chairman Darrell Manning. “It is in better shape now than it was, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be replaced as soon as we can get it replaced.”

ITD spokeswoman Molly McCarty said, “There’s no doubt that the bridge has some elements that are in poor condition, and it’s a very old bridge, but it’s definitely a safe bridge.” She and board members noted that the magazine report focused on the bridge’s “sufficiency rating” of just 2 out of 100 points. Since the deck replacement, that’s risen to 3 out of 100. But they said the sufficiency rating – a measure that got lots of attention for bridges nationwide after the collapse of a major freeway bridge in Minnesota – isn’t necessarily a good gauge of structural safety. That rating also takes into account many other factors, including how far traffic must detour if a bridge is closed.

When it comes to structural ratings, the Dover bridge actually fares slightly better than several other Idaho bridges and is open with no weight restrictions. “This is a bridge that’s still in safe driving condition,” McCarty said.

Manning said the board will continue to discuss the Dover Bridge at future meetings.

New law: Allergic students can self-inject

Starting on July 1, Idaho law will specifically direct schools to let kids with severe allergies carry self-administered allergy shots like Epi-Pens, under bipartisan legislation that passed unanimously this year. The bill, SB 1443, requires Idaho school boards to adopt policies by Sept. 1 permitting students to carry and use an epinephrine auto-injector for severe allergic reactions, or anaphylactic shock. “It was kind of a situation where there were uneven policies across the state with school districts,” said Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, and Rep. Margaret Henbest, D-Boise. “In many instances I think school districts felt like they didn’t want to allow that, because they didn’t want to take on any liability.”

Werk, whose daughter suffers from severe allergies to nuts, said, “My daughter’s actually had to use her Epi-Pen in the past, and it’s miraculous.” The shot is injected into the thigh, and is so simple it can be used right through a pants leg. Werk said Idaho’s school nurses supported the bill, and the Meridian school district has model policies regarding use of the auto-injectors. “You can’t take 15 minutes on exposure to get to somebody to get to somebody that can get you the thing you need,” Werk said. “These things are a matter of minutes.”

Broadsword said the issue has come up around the nation. “It sounded like common-sense legislation to me,” she said.

‘A Democrat and a Republican back-to-back’

Idaho state historian emeritus Arthur Hart said there’ll be a nice political symmetry to the proposed new placement of Idaho’s historic Abraham Lincoln statue a half-block south of the statue of Gov. Frank Steunenberg, both in the Capitol Boulevard island that leads up to the state Capitol.

“We’d have a Democrat and a Republican back-to-back,” Hart said with a chuckle.

Steunenberg was a Democrat, he noted, as were most of Idaho’s early elected officials, though all of its earliest federal officers were Republicans, as they were appointed by the GOP president. “You can imagine the difficulties of law enforcement, with the federal marshal and locally elected sheriff battling it out on partisan lines over almost anything,” Hart said.

Though feelings about Abraham Lincoln were initially divided in Idaho because of the political split, by the time Idaho’s Lincoln monument was dedicated in 1915, people who had been on different sides in the Civil War had come together.

“Veterans of both armies were still marching in parades together,” Hart said. He even found an accounting of a conversation between two elderly Civil War veterans who were standing at Eighth and Main streets in downtown Boise for a speech by famous northern Gen.William Tecumseh Sherman. “One old soldier said, ‘I followed him through Georgia,’ and the other said, ‘I was running ahead of him,’” Hart said.

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